Blue Hip Quiver with Caiman Skin and Labradorite Cabochon


My father, the practical archer he is, requested a quiver that would keep his arrows close to the body, angled backwards and out of the way, and had a pouch for carrying accessories. I looked around for some inspiration, made a wooden mold, and Dad was soon presented with his caiman inlay sunburst hip quiver.

Dad was happy with form and function of the quiver.

The project came together well enough, and I had the mold anyway, that I decided to make another for the store. I enjoyed working with caiman and like the contrast of textures. I had some labradorite cabochons I’d intended for another project that got sidelined, and was itching to try setting a stone into leather.

What will the others go on? We shall see…

Return to Contents

I’d also been wanting to make something blue for a while. Obviously I needed to put these all together, and the result was very different from my father’s piece.

Making a molded leather item begins, of course, with making a mold. I use scrap wood when possible, and shape things with a scroll saw, hand saw, saw rasp, and chisel. I don’t tend to measure a whole lot when making them, besides to ensure symmetry.

The mold consists of two pieces- simply, the bottom and top. The bottom of the mold is a base-board with the shape of the final molded piece glued to the center. The top is the same size as the base-board, with the shape of the molded piece cut out.

Return to Contents

A piece of 5-6 oz vegetable-tanned cowhide is soaked in room-temp water for a few minutes until saturated, then shaped to the mold by hand initially before the top of the mold is clamped down over it. Darts are cut from the edge of the leather around corners, to allow it to curve.

Another board is placed on top and weighted to flatten the face of the piece, and the leather is allowed to dry.

Return to Contents

Once dried, the top of the mold is removed, and excess leather trimmed from the edges.

The next step is to cut the rest of the quiver pieces. Below is a photo of the patterns used, with rulers for size reference. The pouch flap and back panel of the quiver were cut from 10-11 oz veg-tanned cowhide.

And the pieces for the quiver all cut out.

The edge around where the body of the pouch will be stitched is given extra room of about 1/2 an inch. This wiggle room will make gluing the pieces up easier, and excess leather will be sanded from the edge later.

I’ll begin working the back panel of the quiver next.

Return to Contents

Belt slots are punched with the arbor press. I don’t really measure placement of the slots, instead I just eyeball it with aesthetics and function in mind. I use a T-square to make sure they’re lined up.

With slots punched, the edges of the top of the back panel are visited by an edge beveler and stitching groover.

Next begins stamping. I went with a scale, as it felt fitting with the overall…theme?

Return to Contents

Stamping finished. Next, I’ll begin designing the pouch flap. First, I’ll get the outline of the flap on tracing paper so I know what shape I’m working with.

Then comes deciding what I want the flap to look like.

This is one of those “creative processes” that, to an outside observer, appears to involve little more than staring blankly at a sheet of paper and a pile of drawing tools as if the right shape will draw itself. It can be frustrating.

Mask design/build for the sunburst quiver

After rejecting half a dozen designs, I finally come up with a shape for the mask that I decide to move forward with. The mask is a cutout piece of leather that will cover the edges of the caiman skin and the labradorite.

Return to Contents

The final mask design is transferred to cased, 4 oz veg-tanned cowhide with a stylus, then cut out. Thinner leather is preferred for the mask, and the piece will still need a good deal of skiving.

The mask cut from cowhide.

The caiman piece is cut from a tail section.

Checking for a proper fit of the caiman involves a bit of back-and-forth with the mask and stone, making sure everything aligns properly. When satisfied, I dye the top of the flap and glue the caiman to it with Barge cement.

The cabochon is glued on with Barge immediately afterwards.

Return to Contents

The mask is dyed, and the edges thinned with a French beveler or safety skiver to ease the transition between caiman and cowhide, and to reduce bulk from the stone setting.

I then wet the part of the mask framing the cabochon, and use a modeling spoon to suggest the shape of the stone to the leather.

The mask is then glued on top of the caiman. I first used super-glue gel and made a thin line around the cabochon, and applied Barge to the edge of the two surfaces of leather surrounding the stone. This center of the mask was carefully glued down first to assure good placement, then Barge applied to the outer edge of the mask and pouch flap, and the rest of the mask glued down. Don’t make the mistake I did here, and forget to mark your stitching holes before gluing down. It’s awkward later.

Mask glued down and ready to stitch

The edge of the flap is sanded flush, and the mask is stitched down. I used 0.6mm, blue Ritza tiger thread. I also later decided I wanted the mask darker, so I deglazed it with acetone and ethanol, applied mahogany dye, and re-applied Fiebing’s leather sheen as a finish.

Mask stitched on, dyed darker, swing clasp attached.

Return to Contents

The rest of the pieces are dyed. I used Fiebing’s navy blue for most of the bag, and purple was airbrushed around the edges. The lower piece of the swing clasp is riveted to the bag front, and the quiver pieces are glued together with Barge.

Glue spreaders make this much, much easier.

I use a Sharpie to first draw the outline of the piece to be glued, so I can make sure to get good glue coverage without applying where not needed. I give the cement a few minutes to dry, then press the pieces together and tap the seam gently with a hammer to set the bond.

After cementing the front two pieces together, the edge is trimmed of excess (but not too much- leave wiggle room yet). The two pieces and rear panel are then prepped to be glued…

Then pressed together while carefully maintaining alignment, seam set with a hammer…

And trimmed.

I lined the back of the quiver with maple color, chrome-free pigskin. In retrospect, I should have gone with a darker liner. It was pretty tricky to keep that off-white color from picking up bits of blue dye during the build.

The quiver was simply set on top of my lining hide, and a pen used to draw the lining with a decent margin. The lining piece is then cut out, and Barge cement applied to the back of the quiver and the liner.

Return to Contents

Then pressed together. Of course, this bond can’t be set with a hammer. I smooth it with my hand for a while to help ensure contact between the surfaces. Excess liner is trimmed.

The quiver is now ready to be stitched together. Assuming, of course, you didn’t forget to mark stitching holes a second time. If you’re like me and did that, mark them now. I case the leather a bit and use an overstitch wheel.

Stitching through four layers of leather is difficult. I’ve been using the double-needle, saddle stitch technique as described in Al Stohlman’s book, The Art of Hand Sewing Leather. In most cases, the method is easy and flows well. With this kind of stitch job, a pliers and thimble are necessary, and stitching is slow.

Assembly of the sunburst quiver

With the pouch stitched on, I punch out the lining from the belt slots with the arbor press, and then finish stitching the back panel.

Return to Contents

Below, it’s easy to see the difference the leather thickness had in my ability to keep my stitch line straight. Stitching looks great on top with only two thicknesses to pierce, but the awl blade has more tendency to wander when being pushed through more leather and resulted in a less even line on the bottom.

At this point, I noticed some lifting of the mask at the corners and chose to reinforce those two spots with a rivet each.

The quiver is nearing completion. I next take it to the belt sander again, and make sure all edges are flush to make a clean outline for the piece.

This process is messy. I wear safety goggles and a respirator to keep leather dust out of my lungs.

Once the edges are evened up, I flip the quiver over. A “burr” will develop on the back side of a piece after using a power sander, especially when using a thin lining. To remove this, I tilt the edge down about 45 degrees and give it a quick swipe at the sanding wheel to cut this burr off.

Return to Contents

This also solves the problem of thin lining being difficult to bevel.

After power sanding, the quiver is a mess. This is quickly remedied by a visit to the airbrush station to blow off dust, and a wipe with a dry rag. Just make sure the airbrush is empty and dry first.

Next begins the process of finishing up the edges. This is the quiver edge immediately after the belt sander:

The edge after being sanded by hand up to 600 grit and front edge beveled:

And finished edge after dyeing and burnishing with gum tragacanth and then beeswax:

After burnishing the edges, I used leather sheen on most of the dyed sections of the quiver, carnauba creme on the caiman, and called it done.

The finished quiver is identical in size to its sister but with quite a different overall look. Total build time, maybe 40 hours working at a leisurely pace.

Arrows are gripped snugly between the pouch itself and the back panel of the quiver. While full of arrows, the main pouch remains empty and can hold archery accessories, snacks, camera, bug spray, etc.

Detail view of arrow insertion.

Thank you for reading! This quiver is available for purchase here.

Return to Contents

%d bloggers like this: